New research is finding that the humble yarrow plant – considered a roadside weed in many areas – has the ability to calm the nerves, reduce liver and kidney infections and provide potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
A study Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) study comes from the School of Pharmacy of the Tehran University of Medical Sciences. The researchers studied 31 patients with chronic kidney disease. They were randomized and given either a placebo or 1500 milligrams of powdered yarrow flower or a placebo for three days a week for 60 days.
The researchers focused upon the patients plasma nitrite and nitrate levels – which were high among these kidney disease patients. High plasma nitrite and nitrate levels are produced when water nitrate levels are high or a person consumes significant levels of nitrites without a healthy kidney clearance.
The researchers found that over the two months, the powdered yarrow group had lower levels of nitrites and nitrates, while the placebo group had higher levels of these in their bloodstream. Nitrite levels went down 37% while nitrate levels decreased 11% among those taking the yarrow.
The researchers noted that the dosages were minimal – with only three days per week of doses at only 1500 mg – and the period of dosage was short for herbal medicine. “Higher doses or longer duration of plant administration may make these changes more significant,” they stated in their conclusion.
Yarrow’s significant effects with liver and kidney confirmed in other research
A new review of Yarrow research by Dr. Muhammad Akram, a professor of medicine at Pakistan’s University of Poonch, has confirmed Yarrow’s significant effects in treating various kidney and liver disorders.
As pointed out in Dr. Akram’s paper, the flowers and fruits of the Yarrow have been prescribed successfully by traditional herbalists for hepatitis B and C. It has been used to treat malaria, jaundice and other liver disorders, and is considered liver-protective.
A 1999 clinical study from the Ukraine illustrated Yarrow’s ability to treat and rehabilitate elderly patients with chronic cases of hepatitis.
Yarrow has also been used to treat various kidney disorders in traditional medicine. These include kidney stones, cystitis and others.
Researchers from the University of Melbourne and research from the University of Milan determined that Yarrow has calming effects, called “anxiolytic-like effects.” The research determined that there was a modulation of GABAA/benzodiazepine (BDZ) reception.
In addition, Yarrow has been found to have significant anti-inflammatory effects. It has been used to reduce muscle pain, fever, menstruation problems, arthritis, gout, influenza, boils and other infection-related disorders include psoriasis.
As pointed out in Dr. Akram’s paper, these effects have been confirmed with clinical and laboratory testing.
In a study of 36 patients with liver cirrhosis, treatment with an herbal combination containing Yarrow significantly decreased liver enzymes and other symptoms of the disease in all the patients taking the formula (Liv-52) while the placebo group showed no change in symptoms or liver enzyme levels.
Many medicinal compounds found in Yarrow
Yarrow’s primary Latin name is Achillea millefolium, though it has a number of relatives or subspecies – most of which have the same medicinal properties. It grows throughout most of the world’s temperate areas, including Europe, the Americas, the Middle East and Asia. It is hardy in colder climates, where it blooms during the spring times.
Yarrow contains a number of bioactive constituents, including luteolin, choline, azulene, salicylic acid, glucosides, glucoonides, camphor, eucalyptol, artemetin, apigenin, pinene, terpineol and others. Its alkaloid content gives Yarrow some of its astringent properties, making it useful in reducing fever and infection.
Malaria, wrinkles and oxidative radicals inhibited by Yarrow
Yarrow’s ability to counteract malaria – though proven in traditional clinical use – was studied in 2008 (Lehane and Saliba) in the laboratory. The researchers tested eleven a number of potential medicines against malarial parasites, and found that among all tested the luteolin (full chemical name luteolin-7-O-beta-D-glucuronide) from Achillea millefolium significantly inhibited the malaria parasite more than any other compound tested.
A 2011 clinical study from France illustrated that a Achillea millefolium extract significantly decreased skin thickness and wrinkles on the face after treating the skin for two months.
Extracts of Yarrow have also been tested for their antimicrobial effects with much success. Achillea millefolium also produces significant antioxidant effects, as it neutralizes oxidative radicals.
Yarrow purifies blood and reduces blood pressure
Other research has shown Yarrow’s ability to reduce blood pressure, as well as purify the blood stream. These effects are likely related, as clearing the blood of radicals prevents blood vessel wall damage – and thereby helps decrease hypertension.
This was proven in a 2000 study of 120 adults who were between 40 and 60 years old. They were randomly divided and given either a placebo or an extract of Achillea wilhelmsii – ‘Wooly Yarrow’. After two months of treatment, the Yarrow group showed significant decreases in triglycerides. After four months, LDL-cholesterol and total cholesterol levels were significantly reduced and by six months HDL-cholesterol levels were significantly higher among the Yarrow group.
This study also showed that both diastolic and systolic blood pressure was reduced among the Yarrow group after two months and six months.
Akram M. Minireview on Achillea millefolium Linn. J Membr Biol. 2013 Aug 20.
Vahid S, Dashti-Khavidaki S, Ahmadi F, Amini M, Salehi Surmaghi MH. Effect of herbal medicine achillea millefolium on plasma nitrite and nitrate levels in patients with chronic kidney disease: a preliminary study. Iran J Kidney Dis. 2012 Sep;6(5):350-4.
Sarris J, McIntyre E, Camfield DA. Plant-based medicines for anxiety disorders, Part 1: a review of preclinical studies. CNS Drugs. 2013 Mar;27(3):207-19. doi: 10.1007/s40263-013-0044-3.
Vitalini S, Tomè F, Fico G. Traditional uses of medicinal plants in Valvestino (Italy). J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 Jan 12;121(1):106-16. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2008.10.005.
Harnyk TP. The use of preparations of plant origin in treating and rehabilitating elderly patients with chronic hepatitis. Lik Sprava. 1999 Oct-Dec;(7-8):168-70.
Pain S, Altobelli C, Boher A, Cittadini L, Favre-Mercuret M, Gaillard C, Sohm B, Vogelgesang B, André-Frei V. Surface rejuvenating effect of Achillea millefolium extract. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2011 Dec;33(6):535-42. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2494.2011.00667.x.
Huseini HF, Alavian SM, Heshmat R, Heydari MR, Abolmaali K. The efficacy of Liv-52 on liver cirrhotic patients: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled first approach. Phytomedicine. 2005 Sep;12(9):619-24.
Asgary S, Naderi GH, Sarrafzadegan N, Mohammadifard N, Mostafavi S, Vakili R. Antihypertensive and antihyperlipidemic effects of Achillea wilhelmsii. Drugs Exp Clin Res. 2000;26(3):89-93.
Case Adams is a California Naturopath and a Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and diplomas in Homeopathy, Aromatherapy, Bach Flower Remedies, Blood Chemistry, Clinical Nutritional Counseling and Colon Hydrotherapy. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies.